I frequently get asked if Teaching Self-Government principles still work while you’re on a family vacation. The answer is a wholehearted yes!
I’ve used the principles on many trips over the years, once for three weeks straight during two different vacations.
When my family is on vacation, we don't always eat healthy food and end up eating a lot of snacks. This makes my children happy, of course. Since we eat so many snacks on vacations, it’s the first consequence my children can lose. For instance, one of my children decided to have an attitude problem at one point on one of our trips. I said, “(name), you’re saying disrespectful things to your mother. I can tell you want to tell me something. I really want to know what you have to say, but I can't talk to you while you’re taking the Spirit away from the conversation by being angry. You’re not disagreeing appropriately. If you choose to disagree appropriately, we can talk about what’s bothering you. However, if you choose not to disagree appropriately, then you’ll be choosing to lose your snack privilege for 24 hours.”
This was my pre-teach. I always give more pre-teaches on vacation because vacations are full of family activities I don’t want my children to miss. This is also why I use loss of snack and TV instead of chores. Chores can be hard to find and often also punish other members of the group. I don't believe in punishing myself or others if we didn't choose the negative behavior.
Pick a privilege you can use on a trip. That's number one.
Then remember to pre-teach A LOT. Make sure your pre-teaches don't come across as lectures. Make them short and filled with vision.
Third, don't forget to feed your family often and give everyone ample rest. This is hard on long trips. I remember two instances when my children were out of instructional control because they were so tired they couldn't even function properly. It doesn't matter how cool the vacation is; no one will appreciate it if they’re too tired, hungry or thirsty.
Fourth, keep your own stress level down. Crazy things happen on trips. Plan on it! Have a good time no matter where you are.
Once while in Philadelphia, my four year old tripped into a cabinet and ended up with a deep gash on his head. We called an ambulance. While watching people help Porter, my six-year-old daughter passed out and hit her head on the tile floor. We made quite a scene, as you might imagine. We got to go to the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia instead of many historical sites. Instead of being disappointed, we decided to smile through it and not worry about what we could be doing. We had a great time at the hospital and met some really neat people. We got to see how people in Pennsylvania really live and work outside of the tourist industry. We also found some of the best food of our trip in the hospital cafeteria.
My children will never forget what they saw in Philadelphia. We didn't do what we had planned, but we still made lasting memories. Aside from the hospital, we saw the Liberty Bell, Ben Franklin's grave, Independence Hall and went on a “Ride-the-Ducks” tour around town. Even now, when I ask my son his favorite part of our two-week trip, he says, “Getting staples in my head and riding the Ducks."
Fifth, give your kids special attention. When my son and daughter had health problems, everyone changed. We treated them with more concern and tenderness. We were constantly asking if they needed water or food. Our family treated them like they were special. I think my youngest really liked getting staples in his head because he received attention from everyone.
During a vacation, it’s easy to get caught up in the feelings you anticipated would come from the trip. Although it’s normal, it’s a selfish thought process. It’s normal for parents to want a break. But, if your children are on vacation with you, the feeling of break will never meet your expectations. So, don't think about yourself. If you want to have a great trip, give your children special attention. Treat them as if they were wounded. Really care about what they need and want.
My proudest moments on our vacations are when I put my selfish desires aside and make someone else's day memorable.
Sticking to these principles can make any family vacation enjoyable and memorable for everyone!